Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Program-launching on speed

An open complaint to all companies and software developers that install those damned “speed launcher” things along with their software:

Folks, your program is not the most important effing thing on my computer. Stop that! When I want to run your program, I’ll run your program. Don’t pre-load the bulk of your program when my computer starts up, taking up memory and slowing down everything else I’m running.

Further explanation for those of my readers who don’t understand what these things are, or don’t even know that they exist:

When you install (on Windows) Adobe Reader, Real Player, QuickTime, and various other programs, they install an extra process that starts when your computer does. This extra process pre-loads much of the program code and leaves it in your computer’s memory all the time, regardless of when and whether you actually want to run these programs. The idea is that when you do want to use, say, Adobe Reader, it appears to start more quickly than it otherwise would, because most of it is already loaded into memory.

But the cost of this is that the program takes up running memory in your computer from the very start, whether or not you ever use Adobe Reader (or Real Player, or QuickTime, or...). Depending upon how much available memory you have (not on the disk drive, but in working memory, RAM), the difference might not be noticeable, or it might make the computer seem sluggish.

You’re trading off loading the programs when they’re needed with loading them when you start the computer. With these “speed launchers” installed, your computer will take a little longer to start up. You most likely won’t notice that, because it’s done in the background, not while you’re waiting for something to happen. So perhaps you like these things, especially if you use the programs in question quite often.

The thing is that the installation programs don’t give you a choice, and unless you know what to do, it’s hard to get rid of the speed launchers — they aren’t exposed processes, with user interfaces that let you turn them off, and there’s not usually an option in the main program’s preferences to control them.

The speed-launcher processes are hidden in the Run key in the Windows registry. If you want to get rid of the ones you don’t need, run the registry editor (click the start button and select “Run...”, type “regedit”, and press enter). Click the plus signs to expand “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE”, “Software”, “Microsoft”, “Windows”, “CurrentVersion”, and then click on “Run”. In the right pane, you should see a list of programs — these are all started when Windows starts up. Don’t delete them wantonly, because many of these are needed to support things like your anti-virus program, your audio system, your wireless networking, and your computer’s power-management system.

You can, though, delete one of more of these, and there may be others:

  • Adobe Reader Speed Launcher
  • Real Tray
  • QuickTime Task
  • iTunes Helper

If you want to know what any of them are, and whether it might be safe to remove them, try a Google search.


HRH said...

Likewise, I find these speed launchers, extremely annoying. I think they should mandate a law, for any software with speed launcher, (as you pointed out) to give user an option, to turn off this capability during the installation. Playing with the registry is OK for advanced users, and it could be perilous otherwise.

Nathaniel Borenstein said...

If we're going to make a law to prevent unnecessarily slow computers, why not start by banning Windows?

HRH said...


...and replace it with Linux :-)